get in the way.

John 3:22–36

After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized. Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized. For John had not yet been thrown into prison.

Then there arose a dispute between of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”

John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

John is at Aenon, baptizing many people. All is well; they don’t know that he’ll be arrested.

But John’s disciples get into a dispute with the Jews (many translations say “a Jew”) about purification. Somehow this causes them to run to John and whine, “He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!” How could a dispute about purification lead to that?

It shouldn’t. Baptism and purification are not the same. They’re not the same word in Greek—baptism is “baptizo,” purification is “katharismos”—and they aren’t about the same kind of cleansing. How does this dispute then even make sense?

It doesn’t; that’s the point. John’s disciples ask him a ridiculous question, and he has to straighten out their attitude by explaining the relationship between him and Jesus. It looks like they were triggered by some kind of insult or challenge by the Jews and reacted petulantly. We know they reacted petulantly; the only question is, “To what?”

The Jews must have told John’s disciples that Jesus was baptizing more people than they were. How that has anything to do with purification is anyone’s guess—it sounds more like a random put-down—but, in any case, it sent John’s disciples running to him with their tails between their legs.

This is a great example of how our egos can get in the way of ministry. Our weaknesses and failings are at the heart of our relationship with the gospel. That should make us immune to insults, but it doesn’t.

Never forget, it’s not about you.

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.